Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 370, 157-169 (2001/4-4)
ROSAT all-sky survey of W Ursae Majoris stars and the problem of supersaturation.
STEPIEN K., SCHMITT J.H.M.M. and VOGES W.
Abstract (from CDS):
From ROSAT all-sky survey (RASS) data we obtained X-ray fluxes for 57 W UMa type contact systems. In our sample we detected three stars which are the shortest period main sequence binaries ever found as X-ray sources. For stars with (B-V)0<0.6 the normalized X-ray flux decreases with a decreasing color index but for (B-V)0>0.6 a plateau is reached, similar to the saturation level observed for single, rapidly rotating stars. The X-ray flux of W UMa stars is about 4-5 times weaker than that of the fastest rotating single stars. Because early type, low activity variables have longer periods, an apparent period-activity relation is seen among our stars, while cool stars with (B-V)0>0.6 and rotation periods between 0.23 and 0.45 days do not show any such relation. The lower X-ray emission of the single, ultra fast rotators (UFRs) and W UMa stars is interpreted as the result of a decreased coronal filling factor. The physical mechanisms responsible for the decreased surface coverage differs for UFRs and W UMa systems. For UFRs we propose strong polar updrafts within a convection zone, driven by nonuniform heating from below. The updrafts should be accompanied by large scale poleward flows near the bottom of the convective layer and equatorward flows in the surface layers. The flows drag dynamo generated fields toward the poles and create a field-free equatorial region with a width depending on the stellar rotation rate. For W UMa stars we propose that a large scale horizontal flow embracing both stars will prevent the magnetic field from producing long-lived structures filled with hot X-ray emitting plasma. The decreased activity of the fastest rotating UFRs increases the angular momentum loss time scale of stars in a supersaturated state. Thus the existence of a period cutoff and a limiting mass of W UMa stars can be naturally explained.